28 June 2016

Cone Peaks: Monache Mountain

Sequoia National Forest

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 1 of 4) I left Templeton Mountain unclimbed almost two years ago and decided to try for it again. The impetus to climb this silly looking nearly perfect cone of a peak was to look for a benchmark that is on the 1905 Olancha 30' map. There are others, so I decided to add a few more to the trip to make a big loop with a return that may as well visit Jordan Hot Springs again. I stopped by the Blackrock Ranger Station to self issue a wilderness permit then got up to the parking lot just after hitting the breaks to avoid hitting a bear. Seeing the bear makes me really want to get rid of food trash and maybe food before leaving the car, but there are no trash cans or bear boxes available. So it goes. There is a beautiful hazard tree central to the lot. So it goes.

To avoid walking the same trails as much as possible, I decide to head over to Monache Meadows via motorcycle trail and jeep road. This is decidedly not the short route for getting the goals for the day, Monache Mountain and a benchmark west of it, but I am not concerned with the distance. First, I have to find a short bit of jeep road that heads out from the parking lot, according to my map. I eventually find a piece of long gone road going in the right direction. There are a lot of big trees to climb over before a trail, not on my map, comes in from the left and continues down the old road bed. The motorcycle trail, decorated with direction signs and stop signs, is easy to find and actually rather pleasant to wander along as it twists into valleys and out to views.

granite knobs reaching upward
Granite knobs in the distance, one of them probably even called Granite Knob.

Olancha Peak
Olancha Peak sure looks like a sleeping giant in the distance.

The heat of the day is coming on quickly, but as it gets to be too much, the clouds start offering good shade. This trail is luxury. It has bridges over the little creeks, and the first even has water running under it. A few more decaying roads and motorcycle trails come up to it. Only one is on the map. I can hear a motorcycle in the distance, but none come along the trail.

motorcycle trail with a bridge
Bridges sure make stream crossings simple.

Columbines beside the water in the stream.

The motorcycle trail is in no hurry to get to the road that I can see below. Once it does, things are not quite so pleasant. It is running east and downhill to get to my trail which will just head back west and uphill. Eventually, I just cannot stand it anymore and cut north to try to find the trail. I probably should have done so at the last big curve of the motorcycle trail before it found the road. Navigating across a big meadow is not so hard, although the steep slope down to the meadow takes some care. The trail is marked as "infrequently maintained", so I am a little worried about actually finding it. It is faint, but there are cut branches to mark it as human rather than cow. Trees across it ahead make finding it a recurring experience.

Olancha past the meadow
Monache Mountain and Olancha Peak rise over Bull Meadow as I cut across to the trail.

purple flowers
Lots of flowers are blooming in the meadows.

maintenance and unmaintained
A little bit of maintenance followed by a little bit of need that pushes me well off the trail again. It is easier to find when knowing approximately where to look.

As I wander beside meadows and across creeks, the clouds complete covering the sky and distant rumbles can be heard. That is not good for climbing peaks. It starts to rain as I stop for some lunch. It is just scattered drops, so I continue on, scaring a couple bears away from the trail just a hundred yards down from where I was eating. Little Dry Meadow does not seem so dry with a bit of rain falling on it. It is lush with green stuff for now, but the trees around it are not doing well hinting at some long term dryness.

alder trees
Alder trees are also found among the pines and cedar.

Little Dry Meadow
Little Dry Meadow in a light rain. The grass is lush, but dying, and the trees are just dying.

The trail beside Little Dry Meadow is marked unmaintained, but it seems no different from the trail I have been on. At the end, there are a couple signs to help me navigate. The rain is getting harder and the rumbles closer so I decide to put up a little shelter. I will soon be at the saddle where I will leave the trail to climb the peaks, so it seems like a good time to wait out the afternoon storm. They do tend to be short. The rain comes down harder still once I get a roof over my head. Curled up and comfortable, I almost get a nap in while waiting an hour. As things seem to calm, I pack it all up and follow that plan. It has gotten nice and cool for the climbing.

raining over the ridges
Distant southerly peaks may be getting a little rain soon.

The climb is actually started with a drop, then up to the peak. Low manzanita slows me down a little and makes my trousers and shoes quite soggy and seems to get particularly thick around the peak. There is nothing on it. I am disappointed, but it is short lived. As I look around, there is a much taller bit of rocks just a little east and the top of it seems to even have a pole on it. All that water onto my shoes for no good reason, but I am feeling certain of success now.

wrong peak
This is not the one, but that almost certainly is.

It is quick to cross over to the real peak and there is less manzanita to dump more water on my shoes. The post looks more and more like the sort of thing surveyors leave stuck on mountains as I get closer. Nearby is the benchmark I am looking for. A real benchmark. It is not stamped with a date, but it is the thick and oversized design in a silver alloy I found once before and that one was stamped 1905. The elevation stamped is exactly 100 feet lower than the old map claims. Someone came around in 1956 to add a couple reference marks. I expect they are the ones that left the post as well. Oh, and the view is great from up here. It is easy to see why the benchmark was placed here instead of 79 feet higher on the named peak.

benchmark, maybe from 1905
A benchmark with a view, just the way they like them.

Monache Meadows
Overlooking a little bit of Monache Meadow. Much of the meadow is hidden by the peak.

Monache Meadow and Mountain
The north end of Monache Meadow pokes out on the other side of Monache Mountain.

mountains to the north
The collection of mountains to the north.

peaks with snow on them
Peaks tall enough to still have a little snow on them.

It is great at the top, but I do need to continue on. Monache is clearly full of trees at the top and unlikely to offer a view, but I am still determined to climb up it too. It is just something like 900 feet down and back up again to get there. It is a steep climb with some quite rocky sections that do not always have the best footing. It gets steeper as I go, but then it starts to level off and I find myself quite near the top.

looking back at the benchmark
Nearly to the top and looking back to the peak with a benchmark.

There seems to be a high point, but I keep wandering eastward. There is another slight rise that seems to be the true peak. As expected, nothing can be seen from it. As I get over the top, I can hear mooing from below. I continue east another shallow peak like the first, but with a little bit of view and a smashed glass bottle that may have been a register once.

top of Monache Mountain
The top of Monache Mountain is so tree covered, there is a tree right at the high point.

possible register location
A possible register is located a little east of the peak where there is a view of Olacha Peak. Most come from this side and it does feel like the top.

I am hungry, so stop to eat a little, but not for long. There just is not so much to be interested in up on this named peak and it is getting late. My only task left for the day is to get down and find some water and a place to sleep. I will very much need water when I get there, but I can see clearly that the South Fork Kern River is running well through the meadow.

heading down Monache Mountain
Heading down Monache Mountain.

There is a corner marker on my old map just about directly east of the peak, so that is the direction I go. Even with the map, finding it would almost entirely be down to luck. I track the drop on my GPS to try to get to the right altitude to look around for it. Keeping a little south of east and then jogging north, I do not have quite enough luck to stumble over it. All I stumble over are a set of foot prints from the last climber a few times before they head off more south than I want to be.

sunset colors on the mountains
The hills are turning red. I did say it was getting late.

I drop down into a big, named camp area, but still have no water. That is the wrong order. Just past the camp is the road. I try for water from a stringer, but it is dry, so head off to the river. It is annoyingly protected by an electric fence. I should have just kept to the road, which would have brought me to another camp area and then a river crossing with no fences to worry about. A quick scramble under the fence works fine for getting water too. Once supplied, I grab the first bit of flat ground and get to fixing the hungry feeling. It is gnawing a little bit too much.

Continue reading: day 2

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 July 2016

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